Serial Position EffectOpen Access

Serial Position Effect

We better remember the first and last items in a list

Whether it’s the visual order of products online, or a list of features heard in an advert, what sits at the ends will always stick more in the mind.

Ert & Fleischer (2016). Mere position effect in booking hotels online. Journal of Travel Research, 55(3), 311-321.

The study

Setup

468 people were randomly assigned to one of ten groups and shown a website list of ten hotels, each with the hotels in a different order. They were then asked to choose one.

Results

Regardless of their group, more people chose hotels placed at the start and end of the list.

Study graph

Key Takeaways

Position matters.

Why? Initial options are prioritized in our memory (Primacy effect). Then, we see a pattern, switch off in the middle and only at the end do latter options held in short term memory (Recency Effect) influence the decisions we make, so put your best stuff at each end.

Takeaway image

End on a high.

Advertisers promoting benefits of their product should combine recency with the Peak-End Rule, finishing with a significant or unique feature to enhance recall, conversion and seal the deal with a positive Surprise.

Takeaway image

Order = opportunity.

For ecommerce or aggregation sites, consider monetizing product positioning for the start and (paradoxically) end of your lists. Alternatively, design for and highlight conversion fairness with random ordering.

Takeaway image
Takeaway image
Serial Position Effect

Serial Position Effect

We better remember the first and last items in a list

Whether it’s the visual order of products online, or a list of features heard in an advert, what sits at the ends will always stick more in the mind.

The study

Setup

468 people were randomly assigned to one of ten groups and shown a website list of ten hotels, each with the hotels in a different order. They were then asked to choose one.

Results

Regardless of their group, more people chose hotels placed at the start and end of the list.

study graph
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